Dumfries House health programme has Kara “in a better place” after five years of fatigue

As someone who has lived with chronic fatigue syndrome for more than five years, Kara Galloway finally feels more able to deal with the mental impact of exhaustion after benefiting from a range of courses that form part of The Prince’s Foundation’s Integrated Health and Wellbeing programme at Dumfries House.

Kara, a 35-year-old mother of three, took ill in April 2014, unable to keep water down.

A year later, her condition was identified as Myalgic Encephalomyelitis as she suffered from insomnia, muscle and joint pain, headaches and brain fog. A change in diet and use of supplements proved futile in alleviating her tiredness, which prevented houseproud Kara from completing tasks such as cooking, cleaning, or caring for her family. The consequent feeling of uselessness and a lack of purpose left her confronting mental ill-health.

“My main symptom is exhaustion but I do get pain in my legs and all over my body sometimes,”

explains Kara, originally from Catrine but who now lives with her husband and children in Mauchline.

“I’ve had to really adapt my life. Doing housework or going to the shops, I’d constantly have to take breaks, which left me frustrated as I’d be unable to finish what I’d started and keep the house nice and tidy. The alternative would be trying to do too much, which, when you have chronic fatigue, could result in a flare up that could leave me in bed for days.

Those registered with an Ayrshire and Arran GP gain free access to the courses run as part of The Prince’s Foundation’s Integrated Health and Wellbeing programme. In late-2019, after more than five years of trying to deal with debilitating symptoms herself, Kara was referred by her local GP to the programme, based at Dumfries House but in recent months run online amid the coronavirus pandemic.

“It was good to be able to chat freely and share experiences,” said Kara, who enrolled on the Chronic Pain Management course.

“Living with chronic fatigue was quite isolating, but I knew there were other people in the group suffering from similar symptoms. In the first meeting, I was really nervous about going, but within ten minutes everyone really opened up.

“I was a bit sceptical before about some practices and techniques that help you deal with mental issues. But, as part of the course, I got to try out reiki, mindfulness, and tai chi, and they really made a difference. I have carried on with mindfulness and signed up for the online sessions at Dumfries House, and I plan to carry on doing tai chi on my own.”

After completing the Chronic Pain Management course, Kara enrolled on a “post-graduate” pain clinic also run as part of The Prince’s Foundation’s programme, which is co-ordinated by Shiona Johnston, Carolyn Paton, and Meaghan Miller at Dumfries House. For Kara, completing that course in November 2020 proved a major turning point.

“I’m in a better place than I was a year ago, and a lot of that was to do with the last pain clinic I took part in,” she said. “With COVID, mentally, it’s been difficult. Alongside the pain clinic, Carolyn gave us the option of four free sessions of one-on-one cognitive behavioural therapy, and we did that as a group every week. It was quite emotional: we would be asked questions about ourselves that we wouldn’t ask ourselves. We were taught to recognise our negative behaviours and correct them ourselves.

“I like being productive, so I just learned to deal with those symptoms and take long breaks between tasks. It’s all about managing what you are capable of and recognising your limits, looking after your body and being at peace with yourself.

“To anyone who is dealing with similar issues, I would say the course could really help them. Carolyn, Shiona, and Meaghan are all really friendly and make you feel really welcome. The impact may not be obvious or instant, but stick with it and there’s a good chance you’ll feel the benefit.”

The Prince’s Foundation’s Integrated Health and Wellbeing programme is open to everyone, with grants available on application. Those registered with a GP in Ayrshire and Arran can access programmes free of charge courtesy of support by People’s Postcode Lottery.The programme is typically run at The Health and Wellbeing Centre at Dumfries House near Cumnock, which was unveiled by HRH The Prince of Wales in 2019, but has moved online in recent months due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Our Integrated Health and Wellbeing programme is open to everyone, with grants available on application. Those registered with a GP in Ayrshire and Arran can access programmes free of charge courtesy of support by People's Postcode Lottery.

A range of programmes is set to launch in early-2021 and run at a rate of one online session per week.

— Fertility (Jan 18 - Feb 22)

— Menopause (Jan 12 - Feb 16)

— Chronic Pain (Jan 13 - Feb 24)

— Health and Wellbeing (Jan 14 - Feb 25)

— Mindfulness (Jan 15 - Mar 5)

Get in touch with Meaghan to talk about enrolling or to find out more by emailing her at health@dumfries-house.org.uk

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